A Cool Trick Every Garden Designer Can Learn From The Princess Bride

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Come on in, pull up a chair.  Stay awhile.  Can I offer you a hot beverage to drink while I share my tale with you?

I’m going to give you a simple process to run in your garden design business that will help you to work less, make more, and enjoy the process.

But first, I’m going to tell you a quick story.

In 1987 a movie came out in the theatres called “The Princess Bride”.  Nowadays kids watch movies on their iPhones, but back then you had to drive to a mall, park, line up, exchange paper money for a paper ticket, line up again, exchange paper money for a bag of popcorn with yellowish grease on top and a huge cup of soda water and brown syrop disguised as a coke, then sit in a big room with 200 other people and watch the movie on a big screen.  It was a glorious time!

Anyhow, I digress.  The Princess Bride, oh yeah.  What a brilliant movie!  Wizards, evil Prince Humperdink, a giant, a short Italian guy, sword fighting, a beautiful princess, a happy ending, it had it all, didn’t it?

I want you to remember a certain bit player in the movie called “The Dread Pirate Roberts”.  If you recall, we never actually met him, did we?

intern garden designer

Sleep well. I’ll probably kill you in the morning.

In fact, he was a myth, a legend, a rotating title given to the first mate of the ship every few years.  Kind of like giving your younger brother your paper route after you get tired of walking in the snow delivering the Winnipeg Free Press.

What kept the Dread Pirate Roberts in power was his fearsome reputation.  He constantly made his prisoners think they were mere moments from a gruesome death.   Poor little Farm Boy…”good night Wesley.  Good work.  Sleep well.  I’ll most likely kill you in the morning.”

Here’s the MAIN IDEA.   The Dread Pirate Roberts was believed to be a brutal killer.  But he was actually a decent fella.  It was the reputation that gave him his power.

So how can you use this to make your life easier in your professional life?

The Dread Pirate Roberts couldn’t act alone.  He had a team.  His team was little better than a brute squad, often prisoners conscripted against their will, but turned into top level pirates through training, experience and the desire for booty and gold.

But what can you do as an owner of a boutique garden design business when the cash flow just won’t support additional employees?

If you were the Dread Pirate Roberts you would simply go ashore at some seaside town, kidnap a dozen prisoners, and force them to work for you.  In the modern entrepreneurial world that’s generally frowned upon, isn’t it?

But the present day equivalent is the unpaid intern.

WARNING!  What I’m about to share with you might cause a few sleepless nights.  But trust me, it will be worth it.

What if you could run a free ad online locally to find a small handful of eager candidates that actually wanted to be a pirate and work for the Dread Pirate Roberts?

Write this down.

As an entrepreneur/Dread Pirate you need:

  • an ad to test
  • a medium to advertise it
  • a info collection method
  • a screening process

Easy peasy.  

Here’s the ad I want you to swipe, and modify for your own nefarious purposes.

Rock Star Intern Wanted By Local Entrepreneur

You must be young at heart, slightly crazy, and high voltage.  And tired of the same lousy boring part-time jobs that get you nowhere except burned out.  I am a grizzled, cranky entrepreneur, running one of New Jersey’s most respected professional landscape design companies.  I require a ninja to help me take over the world.

If I pick you to be my intern, you will hate it.  Long days, fast paced deadlines, lousy food late at your desk, phone glued to your ear switching appointments, calling my client’s voicemail, fighting fires and fixing disasters for little or no pay.  It might not be glamorous, but you will get real world experience, valuable contacts, and unimaginable stressful situations that you will conquer.  You might even get to dig a few holes and get dirty.  Really dirty. Not at first mind you, at least not your first week.

You must have a cheery disposition, a good grasp on organizing, herding cats, using Google calendar, email and scheduling, and a strong stomach for bad coffee and tacos.  You will see grouchy clients, weird back yards, and unhappy people become passionate about a new vision for their space. I can’t make you any promises but this might turn into a full-time job for the right candidate down the road.  

Apply in confidence via private message, send me your contact details and either your favorite movie and why, or your favorite food recipe and why…and oh yea, tell me why I should pick you for such a thankless, difficult job.


Couple of quick points.  Note in the very last paragraph where I ask the candidate for their favorite movie or favorite recipe?  That’s a filter.  If they can’t follow that request, what makes us think they can be trusted to dig a hole for a paying customer?

Doesn’t this ad read differently that 98% of the help wanted ads you’ve seen?  It’s meant to.  We’re looking for a special person to work for us for no pay and harsh working conditions.  At least that’s what their imagination will tell them.  You’ll attract the correct attitude.  And that’s where the real value lies, doesn’t it?

Where do you run the ad?  I suggest Craigslist to start.  Play around with testing the ad locally online.  If you love offline, print it up and pin it to 10-15 local bulletin boards at the local supermarkets and laundry mats.  It’s always a smart tactical move to have a route of at least a dozen bulletin boards mapped out.  You can test so much cheap guerilla marketing ideas using cork boards!

I suggest using email for the first test.  Unless you really love talking to prospective interns on the phone, then have at it.  Email is on almost every smart phone, and you can screen the prospects quickly.  When you do actually talk to them, be the Dread Pirate Roberts, at least at first.  Talk about how thankless the gig is, no pay, long hours, harsh working conditions.  Push them away.  See if they fight for the chance.

How many interns should you take on?  Most entrepreneurs that add unpaid help take on just one for the first 60-90 days, then if it goes well, the sky is the limit.  Of course talk to your insurance guy, and your payroll guy to make sure your tees are dotted and your eyes are crossed.  Heaven forbid you actually try to grow the enterprise without input from the Sales Prevention Department.

If you read the special report yesterday on strategically using email, then you can easily create a webpage with an opt-in box exclusively for intern prospects.  You can have them opt-in, then reply to you, and then you can create monthly follow-up in just a few minutes.  If you aren’t leveraging email marketing then you’re digging a hole with a spoon….try a backhoe and you’ll never go back.

So there you go.  A cool little process to add to your garden design marketing.  My friend Lucy has 2 interns for her seasonal archery teaching business.   Found both of them using that ad and Craigslist.  She has them on the phone an hour a day each cold-calling her past customer list to fill her seminars.  She has them helping at events.  She has them running errands, filing, and doing all manner of work that frees Lucy up to be working ON the business instead of always IN the business.

Are you going to try this out?  What would happen if you had a motivated enthusiastic extra pair of hands to help you?  See….I told you a sleepless night is ahead when you learned this.



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